The Tailor-Made Suits for Autumn - 1909
Coats of Many Colors and Skirts Shapely and Shapeless
By Helen Berkeley-Loyd
It is a matter open to conjecture and speculation as to what potential influence has been brought to bear on trotting horses and tailor-made suits during the last few months.
That they have departed in many instances from the masculine simplicity that has heretofore characterized them is patent to the least observant.
Whether the powers that be among the tailors have grown light-headed or whether the feminine instinct long held in abeyance has, at last, asserted itself, it is impossible to say.
However, the fact remains that the much-vaunted simplicity of the tailor-made suit has successfully been rivaled by an entirely new version of the coat suit.
Seams, once sober and sedate, now describe the most fantastic curves or break off into acute angles as never seen on the old-time classical tailor-made suit.
Pocket-holes open into nothing but an endless opportunity for braiding and cording, while buttonholes that adorn and decorate, but do not button, mock at the practical issues that once characterized the tailored suit.
If this sweeping innovation is carried to its logical conclusion, we may expect to see raincoats with elbow sleeves, walking skirts with lace-trimmed flounces, and traveling suits with panniers and draperies.
Seriously, though—and the Autumnal tailor-made is undoubtedly an earnest subject with most women. The change that has recently come about over coats and skirts is exciting. The general lines are very much what they were last year.
The coats are semi-fitting with a decided tendency toward narrow shoulders and straight, flat backs. The skirts are no fuller than need be and cling to the figure with a faithfulness that is a bit startling at times.
The principal change has come in the cut of the coat and skirt; it is more fanciful, ornate, and decorative than it used to be in former years.
A good deal of the original simplicity of the old-time tailored suits has been sacrificed in many of the new models, but one does not feel inclined to quarrel with these pretty feminine affairs.
Of course, the severely plain coat-and-skirt suit will always exist—for specific times and seasons, nothing can replace it any more than you can reinstate the usefulness of the shirt-waist by the fascinations of the lingerie blouse.
However, few women will feel satisfied to start the year without at least one of the new suits or trotting frocks to their credit.
New colors have made their appearance simultaneously with the current coat cuts, so that, altogether, the tailored suits of the Fall have a freshness and unfamiliarity that are entirely novel and delightful.
Mélange tweeds and homespun show bright flecks of carrot or currant colors against more sober backgrounds; lime-green is a great favorite in certain weaves of worsted and diagonals: while the old-time snowflake effects appear on the surface of bright marine-blue or softwood brown zibeline and camel-hair cloth. Mustard color and beige are not particularly new, but they are most decidedly smart.
In the last shade, I saw a beautiful three-piece suit of soft silk and wool mohair that closely approximates a crêpe weave. The coat was quite long—fully forty-five inches I should say, and in comparison, with most of the season's models, it might reasonably be called simple in cut.
The seams at least were perfectly orthodox and straightforward—and there was only an average number of them—one at the center of the back and two to the shoulders in front. The closing of the coat was of the kind that you will soon grow to look for and like.
On the right side, it ran in a slight outward curve from the shoulder to the waistline. It produced the effect of a profound neck opening. In reality, the neck opening was only a little deeper than it is ordinarily, as the coat is double-breasted from below the chest to below the waist.
If it were single-breasted, you see, and the two fronts met only at the waistline, you would get something of the Tuxedo line that is very pretty but slightly exposing for this time of the year.
However, the double-breasted cut lends a coat all the appearance of a very deep opening, and at the same time gives one ample protection against cold weather.
Instead of a collar, the coat was finished at the neck with two flat bands or facings that met in a V at the center of the jacket in the back. They were made of cloth printed in cashmere designs and colors—soft reds and blues blended with a dull buff much the color of the coat.
The same trimming was used on the sleeves at the wrist replacing the customary cuff or stitching. The coat was fastened with one large button—an outer circle of the beige cloth surrounding a bit of the cashmere trimming.
The skirt of the suit belonged quite as emphatically as the coat to the new order of tailor-made costumes.
The lower part had a wide flat panel at the center of the front, and plaits laid in groups of three and set well apart through the rest of the skirt. It was joined, just about at the hipline, to a princess-fitting body—half jumper, half jersey.
The armholes were rather small, the round neck opening deeper than usual, and both were braided somewhat elaborately in soutache the color of the cloth. The bodice or guimpe was of beige marquisette made quite simply with the material of the chemisette and sleeves laid in half-inch tucks.
It closed in the back, of course, like the skirt, and was made with a small collaret or yoke following the outline of over-waist and braided in the cashmere colors—red, blue, and buff.
Another suit that has aroused my envy and admiration I saw only a day or two ago at one of the last polo games of the year. It was made in a fine lightweight broadcloth in the soft shade of bluish violet that goes under the name of Pervenche.
Skirt, coat, and waist were all made of the same material, and only the soul-satisfying knowledge that her suit was quite a marvel of good style and smart lines could have carried the woman who wore it through that warm September afternoon.
There was a time when the sun reached her part of the grandstand, and she was forced to lay aside her coat, or I probably should not have had such a good view of her bodice.
It was cut quite peculiarly with a wide empiècement reaching almost to the sleeve seams at the shoulder and sloping in toward the waistline on the line made popular by the Gibson tuck.
A plait of the Gibson order did extend beyond this front panel well over the sleeves. It stopped some five or six inches before it reached the waist under a deep fitted girdle cut in one with the front and back sections of the bodice.
The square outline of the chemisette was pretty, but not unusual. The sleeves I rather liked -- they stopped below the elbow and were lengthened by cuffs of dyed net matching the yoke.
The lower part was partially full and was held into the arm by a cuff cut in one with the sleeve itself in a specific peculiar and entirely undefinable manner.
The skirt had the high waistline, its upper edge following the outline of the girdle of the waist. It had a new arrangement of panels at the front and back and a compelling combination of yoke-and-plaits at the sides.
The coat had cutaway fronts with exceptionally large revers faced with ottoman silk, and seams that swerved suddenly toward the back just below the hips.
The back had a seam at the center that was stopped, long before it reached the bottom of the coat, by a broad, seamless section closely resembling a panel.
The coat that is cut off just below the hips and lengthened by a sort of skirt, and the one in which the side sections are hollowed out under the arms to meet again in overlapping points below the hips, will come to your attention before many weeks have passed, if they have not already done so.
The new coat collars are odd and attractive and cut on decidedly original lines. Unlike the Directoire revers of last year, they belong to no particular period and must be accredited solely to the ingenuity of the modern tailor.
One coat that I saw not long ago and liked immensely was part of a tweed suit of a soft tilleul green. It fastened at the waistline with a single button, and the revers were an exaggerated version of the masculine coat collar, but enlarged and trimmed with braid, so that they gave the effect of two sets of revers, one overlapping the other.
The skirt worn with the coat was cut after a model made by a certain Frenchman who is an autocrat among tailors. It had the new slightly raised waistline that is quite a little unlike the Empire line of last year.
It is decidedly lower and fits the figure almost like a corsage. It hardly presents the appearance of a high-waistline skirt at all, but it serves to perpetuate a very desirable species in a practical and possible form.
The new all-in-one dresses are princess, or semi-princess persuasion that is made in cloth or serge is exciting almost as much interest as the tailored suit.
A few days ago I was lunching half in, half out of doors on one of the balcony restaurants of New York, where the wisteria on the walls and the scarlet coats and sashes of the orchestra make a brave show of colors.
At a table near me, I saw one of these new tailor-made trotting-gowns in a queer shade of glacier blue cloth. The skirt closed on a slanting line at the left side of the front and was laid in plaits at the back.
The broad-shouldered waist was heavily braided, the empiècements that widened the shoulders ended in tabs that buttoned down over the crush girdle.
Berkeley-Loyd, Helen "The Autumnal Tailor-Made" in The Delineator, New York: The Butterick Publishing Company, Vol. LXXIV, No. 4, October 1909, p. 263.
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